Ancient Burial Traditions of Japan


Brenda Garcia, Contributor

 Ancient Burial Traditions of Japan

Have you ever been curious about death? How do others perceive it? Their burial customs? The old beliefs of death? Well, today I will answer your questions.  

Japan’s belief in the afterlife was based on native Shinto (the worship of ancestors, nature spirits, and the belief of sacred power in animate or inanimate objects) mixed with Buddhism. The dead weren’t seen as exactly passing away as it was believed they would take the role of a Kami. A kami is a minor deity that stays within its area and can affect human lives. As they were believed to stay in the area, that might explain one of the very ancient traditions.

Once a dead relative was found at home, the family would leave the house and find another place to live in.  They wouldn’t leave the body there forever, as there are a series of events that were done first before the body was able to be buried. Food would be offered for the dead person in the house and there would be rituals that would last several days. Not just this but there was music and dancing done too to be done. Once everything was done, the body would be buried and the house was left to become a shrine.

There was also an old tradition that involves human sacrifices. The people would be buried all the way up to their necks. Another old tale of sacrifices was that if a bow appeared above a house, a daughter shall be sacrificed to have good hunting. This practice was allegedly stopped by Emperor Suinin. However, the Emperor Kotoku had to ban other forms of sacrifices.   

The last custom I shall mention today was to hang a purse on the neck of the deceased.  The purse would have been filled with three copper coins. They had coins so that they would be able to cross the River of Three Roads. These customs were real based on the book I read.